The path to the post-Covid city

Ideas

The path to the post-Covid city

A year of the pandemic has laid bare the flaws of our cities. Here’s how to make them healthier, cheaper and happier

Simon Kuper

This has been the biggest year of urban change in decades. Many cities have remade themselves during the pandemic, laying bike paths or turning parking spaces into café terraces overnight. Offices have emptied and shops closed, some forever. Every organisation on earth seems to have held a webinar on “The future of cities”. The city — 10,000 years old — obviously isn’t going to die, but it is evolving on fast-forward.

There are constraints to change. Most of tomorrow’s urban infrastructure is already there, often in the wrong place. Many cities have no money to innovate, as the pandemic has ravaged revenue sources such as taxes and subway fares. Yet there is a clear, realistic path to a better city: one that’s greener, cheaper, happier, healthier, more equal and productive, and less polluted and lonely.

The basic exchange that’s required is obvious: cities need to take space from cars, offices and shops and give it to affordable housing, community and nature. The city of the future may look a lot like the city of the past, just cleaner: bicycles, farms and 18th-century-style homeworking rather than flying cars...

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